Antimicrobial peptide defenses against chytridiomycosis, an emerging infectious disease of amphibian populations.


Chytridiomycosis, an emerging infectious disease (EID) of the skin caused by the chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, has been linked with continuing amphibian population declines in the western USA, Central America, Europe, Africa, and Australia. Genetic analysis suggests that B. dendrobatidis is a recently emerged pathogen. This article reviews the biology of this pathogenic chytrid and the evidence for chytridiomycosis as a cause of declines in amphibian populations worldwide. Data are presented to show that antimicrobial peptides, produced in granular glands of the skin and released in high concentrations into skin secretions, are highly effective in inhibiting growth of B. dendrobatidis in vitro and may provide limited protection for some species. Ongoing studies suggest a correlation between resistance to lethal infection by B. dendrobatidis and synthesis of antimicrobial peptides by the host amphibian, but further research is needed to define better the role of antimicrobial peptides in protection of amphibian populations and the effect of environmental factors upon antimicrobial peptide synthesis.